Tag Archives: obruni

Mutual Respect

As our time winds down in Ghana, it feels like just now we are starting to get in the rhythm of things. The open-air classrooms at Heritage have no solid doors or windows, just frames, causing many children to wander in and out throughout the day. Today one of Erika’s students, who she didn’t even know left the room, suddenly popped in through the window and casually sat back down in his desk. Elee finally discovered the perfect solution to all of our combined frustration; a Les Mis style barricade in front of the entrance to the room.

The daunting feeling of teaching is behind us as our lessons have come together and we are organizing final topics and projects. Our students also seem to be acclimating to our teaching, even making connections between our individual classes. After a health lesson on relationships with Jennifer and Carey, Molly taught the same students about animal behavior. When asked what a zebra looks for in a mate a student responded “mutual respect.”

Although we knew from the beginning that our stay in Ghana would be short, we are truly starting to feel the emotions of creating connections with students and then picking up and leaving just days later. Although many of us plan to stay in touch, we also understand how difficult it is to maintain these connections through sporadic letters that can take months to travel back and forth. We are used to relying on technology to maintain long distance relationships, which is not an option for most students at Heritage.

We are not just forming new bonds in the classroom. Our guesthouse, Jimmy Com, has also provided a community for us. Whether it be Lilah and Katie teaching yoga to Emmanuel, Bright, and Michael (all Heritage students staying here to help), or having a ping-pong tournament with the staff, we are continually forming friendships here in Ghana. Even our little neighbors, who would scream “Obruni!” and run whenever they saw us walking by, are now hanging out with us on the back porch. It is these simple encounters that are going to make it that much harder to leave. Hope you are all fairing the cold weather in the US. Many thanks to all our commenters, please keep them coming! For those who have not commented….we know who you are.

Peace, Love, and Pineapples,

Carey, Samantha, Elee and the gang

P.S. Pictures will be posted upon return!

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Oh The Places You’ll Go

Not a day too soon, the reflection sessions have taken a turn for the positive. Yesterday, some of us struggled to connect with a handful of our students, especially the older ones.  This prompted us to discuss our role here as a teacher and what we expect to gain from this experience.  Today we were able to connect better with our students, which in turn improved our moods immensely.  It is a wonderful feeling to be able to say our highs out numbered the lows; which was a high in itself.

In addition to connecting with the students, some of us were able to connect with the Heritage teachers and staff members. For example, some of us talked with the shy but loving school nurse, Joyce. She shared stories about her life including how she started a school with 5 students, which has grown to educate over 150. These interactions have prompted some thought provoking conversations along with more opportunities to learn about both the staff members and the country of Ghana.

A noteworthy conversation took place between Molly and a professor, Adison, and we found it to be eye opening.

Recalled by Molly:

“Normally at home when I tell people about majoring in Animal Behavior they immediately ask me how to solve problems with their dogs.  It was funny, because when I explained to Adison what my major was, the first thing he said was, “I have a dog, it bit me, how do I stop this?”

We all found this to be significant as well as slightly comical, as it shows us that around the world similar conversations are simultaneously taking place.

As mentioned in the previous blog post, we are not only responsible for teaching our own classes, but also reading sessions. These reading sessions consist of 2 to 3 Heritage students reading with 1 to 2 Obrofo (white people aka our group).  Some students are at a fairly advanced level while others are still struggling to sound out words and understand what they are reading.  While some of us find it exhausting, others find it exhilarating.  In reflection, we have discussed how we can cater to these students and facilitate reading comprehension for both types of students.  Hopefully we will be able to implement these strategies successfully on Monday.

A high for the day shared among some in the group, was the “aha” moment at one of our group reading sessions.  We were reading Star Belly Sneetches, an excellent Dr. Seuss book that we highly recommend, when we experienced the kids understanding the moral of the story.  Brief summary: one sneetch has a star, one does not.  They end up switching back and forth at the expense of their wallets only to realize they are not superior or inferior just because of their differing appearances.  When we asked what the kids learned from the story, one kid said, “I learned to love myself and my neighbor.”  Perfection.  Well-done Dr. Seuss.

Tomorrow we’ll be doing a life skills workshop with the 12th graders in which we’ll be discussing topics including HIV/AIDS and Life After College.

Till then…


Samantha, Jennifer and the Obrofo Gang

* Love in Fante (phoenetics: ordough)

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Play That Funky Music Obruni

Having completed our teaching at Heritage, we had one last, full day to ourselves before flying home. Early this morning, Sydney and Jake accompanied Oduro to a gym in Ajumako, a fifteen minute walk from the guest house. And by “gym” we mean a wooden bench press with a mattress for a cushion and four cement weights in the corner of some abnormally jacked guy’s house.

We left around mid-morning with our young friend Kobe, a student at Heritage and a helper at the guest house, on an excursion to Kakum National Park, where we walked across rope bridges through the rainforest canopy. In the parking lot, we were surprised to meet a group of students from Elizabethtown College, which is no more than thirty minutes from F&M. It really is a small world! It was a brief hike up to the entrance for the rope bridges, which hang forty meters above the rainforest floor, providing wide vistas of the surrounding area. Although our reactions to the swinging, creaking rope bridges ranged from terror to amazement (all the while, planning elaborate escapes in the backs of our minds if the bridges gave out), we all survived and enjoyed this amazing adventure. Except Lilah, who tragically fell to her death attempting to do yoga on the bridge. Just kidding (but not about the yoga part)! As Anita put it, “I wasn’t sure whether the bridges were creaking because they were supposed to, or because it’s Ghana.”

Everyone agreed that today was a lot of fun, but one common low in our daily reflection was that the van ride to and from Kakum was hot, sweaty, and cramped. But, it was totally worth it. It was late afternoon when we returned to the guest house, and everyone reluctantly began to pack for the trip home (another low). Our cook, Theresah, prepared our favorite Ghanaian meal for our final dinner at the house: red red (a thick bean stew with plantains), rice, pineapple, and popcorn. With perfect timing, Mike finally finished the bottle of Tabasco he’d been using the entire trip. We already miss the wonderful pineapple!

Although we’re all excited for American food and to see friends and family, we are also sad to leave the country and school we’re just beginning to know. Both Ghana and Heritage Academy will stay with us forever. We hope we’ve been able to have a small impact on the students at Heritage and on the readers of our blog, and that the group of students who come next year enjoy their experience as much as we have. To anyone reading this blog and considering this trip (or a similar one), we’d encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and lend a helping hand, knowing it’s a unique experience you’ll never forget.

Stay tuned for one final, special blog entry from us tomorrow morning…

Obrunis out,
Sydney, Mike and Teresa

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